Russian tycoon ahead in Vimpelcom race
Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Altimo firm has become the largest shareholder in mobile phone operator Vimpelcom after acquiring a total 40.5 pct stake. AFP photo
Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Altimo firm said it had become the biggest shareholder in mobile phone operator Vimpelcom after a $3.6 billion deal with Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris.
The announcement raises the voting shares held by Altimo to just above that controlled by its Norwegian rival Telenor and extends a bitter feud for control of a company with the world’s six-largest mobile subscriber base.
The telecoms investment branch of Fridman’s Alfa Group said it acquired the 14.8 percent stake from the Egyptian investor’s Weather company and bought additional shares on the open market to raise its holding to 40.5 percent.
That just edges the 39.5 percent Norway’s global wireless operator achieved earlier this year thanks to a deal with Sawiris that is now being contested by Russia’s anti-monopoly authorities.
The New York-listed Vimpelcom Ltd. -- famous for the brands Beeline and Wind -- closely trails MTS and MegaFon in Russia and is a strong presence on the Italian market.
It reported a jump in second quarter profits to $488 million on Wednesday thanks to favorable currency exchange rates and continued revenue growth in its Russian divisions.
But the company has seen its stock take a 25 percent hit in recent months as court battles leave management stranded and forced to defer lucrative dividend payments to investors.